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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: April 14, 2003
Volume 38, Number 18

Legislative requests garner mixed results

By Dolores Gonzalez, Senior Program Manager, Office of the Vice President for Advancement, and Curt Porter, UNM Budget Director

Below are a few highlights from the recent legislative session where over 5,000 bills, memorials, resolutions and capital outlay requests were introduced. Of these, UNM tracked 538.

Funding Issues
Based on UNM’s Legislative Funding Priorities, the University had mixed results during the recent session. Two of UNM’s priorities were compensation and the “cost of opening the doors,” which included funding formula workload, inflationary increases and no increase in the tuition credit. The legislature appropriated funds for a three percent compensation increase for higher education faculty and 2.5 percent for staff. (It should be noted that that UNM’s Faculty Senate and Staff Council have gone on record that there should be no difference in the faculty and staff compensation increases.)

The University also received full workload funding from the new formula and some inflationary increases. Unfortunately, the inflationary increases were not as large as recommended by the Commission on Higher Education, but UNM received some relief for increased costs of utilities and library acquisitions. Also, while the tuition credit was not held at this year’s level, the increase was a relatively moderate four percent.

The news is not nearly as good for UNM’s other priorities, however. UNM was seeking some $4.5 million in enhancements to Health Sciences Center educational programs. None of those requests were funded, but the legislature did provide $2 million to enhance nursing programs statewide. The other University priority was a request for approximately $4.3 million to expand, or add to, its special projects funding. UNM submitted a prioritized list of 12 projects, none of which were funded. The legislature did add to UNM’s special project funding by approving five projects totaling more than $700,000 – but none of these were on the priority list.

Additionally, the legislature passed over $3.35 million in capital outlay funding for several projects at the main campus, Health Sciences Center and branch campuses. Unfortunately, only $245,000 of this amount (design/planning funds for the Centennial Engineering Building) was for a project on UNM’s capital outlay priority list. The governor has not yet signed legislation that would appropriate these monies.

Other Legislative Issues
Several other non-appropriation bills that UNM monitored closely during the session and continue to watch as the April 11 deadline approaches (results unavailable at Campus News press time) for the governor to sign or veto include:

HB 573 allows construction contracts to be awarded on factors other than solely on cost and minimal “pass/fail” criteria. This bill would allow the University to choose the contractor most qualified for a particular project, thus helping to ensure that the finished project is of the highest quality and completed according to the agreed time lines.

SB 73 allows supervising anesthesiologists to supervise up to three anesthesiologist assistants. Currently they can only supervise two. This will become more critical as the Health Sciences Center prepares to expand their capacity to perform surgeries in their expanded facilities.

SB 466 provides the language for the allocation of the $3 million in funds appropriated in the General Appropriations Act to establish an endowed chair at each of the state’s three research universities. Endowed chairs provide an excellent means for universities to attract and retain quality faculty. Endowed chairs are proven to be a factor in the stimulus of economic community development.

HB 886 (signed by the Governor on 4/2/03) allows textbooks and other required classroom materials to be excluded from governmental gross receipts taxes.
Currently, the University closes the bookstore to the public at the start of each semester to allow students to purchase their books without having to pay GGRT. Closing the bookstore for six weeks per year has a negative financial impact on UNM revenue because the general public cannot access merchandise during this time. The legislation becomes effective July 1.